Bhagat Singh: the ancestral home is a cultural asset
Banga is a small village near the main road from Faisalabad in the Punjab province of Pakistan to Jaranwala.
This village looks exactly like the ordinary villages of Punjab where there are some mud houses and small streets.
However, few people know that it has an important historical reference. Banga is Bhagat Singh’s native village and his birthplace.
Bhagat Singh is a symbol of resistance to the British Raj who was sentenced to death in Lahore for the murder of a British police officer at the age of 24.
Bhagat Singh was the beacon of a Sikh family but he had no special attachment to religion. If they had love, then from their land. When Bhagat Singh struggled, the concept of Pakistan did not exist.
After the partition of India, Bhagat became a prominent figure in India as a hero of the independence movement. But his personality in Pakistan has been somewhat controversial in the past.
Hafeezullah Hafeez, the headmaster of this primary school in Banga, where Bhagat received his early education, says, “Until recently, no one in our village knew about Bhagat. When Sikh delegations started coming here in the 1980s and 1990s, we found out who the Bhagats were and that they belonged to our village.
But now the Faisalabad district government has declared Bhagat Singh’s birthplace and his school a cultural asset and decided to make his village a model village.
Muhammad Zaheer, Assistant Commissioner, Jaranwala, says, “Model Village means roads and sewerage system will be improved here. There will be a health unit and a livestock office. So far Rs 10 million has been spent on this project and if need be, we will set aside more funds for it in the next budget.
The new building of Banga Primary School has been constructed. But the school grounds has an old-fashioned porch and two adjoining rooms. This is the school where Bhagat received his early education.
The roof of a room has collapsed, and an old blackboard still hangs in the classroom.
B. The school is being renovated in exactly the same way as it was built a century ago and for this purpose the trained labor of the Archaeological Department has been hired.
Contractor Zulfiqar Ali Gondal said, “The school walls have been repaired as before. The roof is being cast in the same way as before. Nothing new. The masonry and floors are also old and nothing new has been tried.
Not far from the school is Bhagat Singh’s house where he was born. The house is now part of a larger mansion. The house is owned by a local family. However, the two rooms where Bhagat’s family lived are being preserved.
There is a plum tree in the courtyard of the house. Locals say the tree also dates back to Bhagat’s time. In one corner of the courtyard is a black plaque that reads, “This house is Bhagat’s birthplace.”
Thanks to this rehabilitation project, the villagers have now become acquainted with Bhagat. But do the children of the village know about Bhagat’s struggle?
Hafeezullah Hafeez, headmaster of the primary school, said, “Children know only what is taught to them in school. And in our curriculum there is no mention of Bhagat among the heroes of the freedom movement. That is why the children do not know much about Bhagat Singh.
If Bhagat Singh is not part of the curriculum, then how did the Faisalabad district government suddenly come up with the idea of taking ownership of Bhagat Singh?
When I asked this question to DCO Noorul Amin, he said, “I have taken this project as a cultural project.” Bhagat is a personality. The people of Banga want to take back their property. Therefore, Bhagat Singh’s village has also been given special status under a major project to restore historical sites. I have taken this step in the best interest of Faisalabad. It will also boost tourism here and create a good impression of Pakistan.
In the past, when an attempt was made to name this square of Shadman in Lahore where Bhagat Singh was hanged after his name, the district government faced protests and the matter is still pending in the court.
DCO Faisalabad says that giving special status to Banga has nothing to do with politics and so far the plan has not been opposed.
Larger bench recommends reopening of Bhagat Singh’s case
The Lahore High Court has recommended the reopening of the case against Bhagat , a revolutionary hero who fought for independence against the British government, and the formation of a full bench to hear his plea for acquittal.
High Court Justice Shujaat Ali Khan has forwarded the petition regarding Bhagat to the Chief Justice with a recommendation that a full bench be constituted for his hearing.
During the hearing on Friday, the lawyer of Imtiaz Rasheed Qureshi of the Judicial Rescue Committee requested that the nature of the petition regarding Bhagat Singh is very important so a full bench should be constituted to hear it.
The petition said that Bhagat Singh was a freedom fighter and he fought for independence from the British.
Bhagat Singh was hanged on March 23, 1931 along with his two companions Raj Guru and Sikh Dev in the Central Jail, Lahore. He was first sentenced to life imprisonment, which was later commuted to death.
The petitioner said that the then Governor of Punjab had constituted a tribunal for the trial of Bhagat Singh for a period of six months but the tribunal started functioning six days before its expiry.
The petition contends that the tribunal hearing the case against Bhagat Singh did not record the statements of all the witnesses nor did it hear the defense counsel.
He told the court that Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan, had twice paid homage to Bhagat Singh in the Central Assembly.
Petitioner Imtiaz Rasheed Qureshi’s lawyer said that the case against Bhagat Singh should be reopened and he should be acquitted.
Shadman’s Fountain Chowk was part of Lahore’s Central Jail, but that section was abolished in the 1960s.
Various organizations, including civil society, have long demanded that Fawara Chowk in Shadman, a popular area of Lahore, be named after Bhagat Singh because he was hanged there.
The district administration of Lahore had announced to name Shadman Chowk after Bhagat Singh, but due to opposition from religious organizations, the matter has come to a standstill.
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